Unbinding Harlem

I recently learned about Harlem Unbound, a RPG by Chris Spivey (Darker Hue Studios) that looks at the Cthulhu Mythos through the lens of 1920s Harlem, especially from the black perspective. This is a game that is as much about racism as it is about otherworldly horror. It’s especially paramount when dealing with a genre itself FULL of incredible racism among the gems of fantastic ideas. While I’m not remotely a scholar on this subject, the descriptor “Lovecraftian” itself seems like something to avoid.

(c) 2016 Wizards of the Coast
Eldritch Evolution by Jason Rainville

As a white dude from Texas, I’m cautious about unknowingly engaging in offensive behavior. My Spanish great-grandparents moved to “Harlem” (possibly East Harlem, which I guess is different somehow?) in the 1920 and 1930s, but I never knew them or my grandfather, who died when my mother was small. As you can tell, I cannot possibly claim any significant connection to that experience. It informed my upbringing but didn’t define it in the way that truly belonging to an oppressed group might. The name of this product therefore intrigued me as a lens into an essentially unknown perspective on one of my favorite genres.

So I started digging to find out more. I only know one way to love things, honestly, which is via obsessive research. In particular, the review from Reckoning of the Dead highlights the guidance in the book for this exact issue. Additionally, Spivey appeared on the Table Top Babble podcast to talk about the game and the metaphor which lays at the heart of it.

All of this basically comes down to one thing: I really want to give Harlem Unbound a try! While a second edition is on the way, I’ve already purchased the first edition. My understanding is that the new one will incorporate no new game mechanics, so I don’t see a reason to wait. And if it lives up to the hype, then getting the second edition later will be another chance to dive further into it all.

More once I’ve had a chance to play it!

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